Cultural theory, pop culture, and Gramsci

Storey, J., 2015. Cultural theory and popular culture: An introduction. Routledge.

  • hegemony refers to the way in which dominant groups in society, through a process of ‘intellectual and moral leadership’, seek to win consent of subordinate groups in society (10)
  • pop culture is the site of struggle between resistance and forces of incorporation
  • texts of pop culture move within “compromise equilibrium”- a balance that is mostly weighted in favor of the dominant.
  • This is historical; texts move from popular to mass over time.
  • using hegemony theory, a text is made up of contradictory mixes of forces (11)
  • conflict is contained and channelled into ideologically safe places; hegemony is maintained by making concessions to subordinate classes (84)
  • 85- ideological state appartuses serve as the organic intellectuals who shape and organize reform of social life**

Bennet, Tony. 1986. “Introduction: Popular Culture and the Turn to Gramsci”

  • pop culture is a terrain of negotiation
  • ‘the people’ refers to several social groups that can be united
  • 94- Gramsci allows scholars to escape the structuralism and culturalism dichotomy.
  • 95- bourgeoisie hegemony is secured not via the obliteration of working-class culture but via its articulation to bourgeois culture and ideology so that, in being associated with and expressed in the forms of the latter, its political affiliations are altered in the process.

Hall, Stuart. 1986. “Popular Culture and the State.”

  • reading for positions (subordinate, dominant, negotiated)
  • argues that pop culture is a contested site for political constructions of ‘the people’ and their relation of the ‘power bloc’
  • writes against the historical model of hegemony and instead that historically “we must attend to breaks and discontinuities: the points where a whole set of patterns and relations is drastically reshaped or transformed. We must try to identify the periods of ‘relative’ settlement” (23)
  • look for the moments of transition
  • 25- shifts in cultural practice and ideology reflect deep changes in class relations
  • Hall uses a variety of case studies from British cultural history to prove his point about the breaks in settlement and moments of incorporation.
  • Breaking points and shifts of the institutionalized cultural institutions reconfigure and establish a new relation of forces, cultural leadership, and class-cultural authority (47).

Fiske, J., 2010. Understanding popular culture. Routledge.

  • the semiotic use of hegemony; pop culture is what people make from the products of the culture industries, that is pop culture is actually what people make from it, do with the commodities and commodified practices they consume.
  • Culture making is the constant process of producing meanings of and from out social experiences. Culture is a constant succession of social practices.
  • pop culture is made in relationship to structures of dominance.
  • Resistance and evasion
  • pop culture is always in process; meanings can only be made in social relations and in intertextual relations (3)
  • relevance is the intersection between the textual and the social. relevances are as divergent as the social situations of the people (6) (news broadcasts: contradictions between socially responsible in content and popular in presentation.
  • Hall’s power bloc: the unified, stable social forces (homogeneity), and the people: a diverse and dispersed set of social allegiances (heterogeneity) (8)
  • dominant power is economic but underpinned and exceeded by semiotic power (meaning)
  • semiotic resistance constructs oppositional ones that serve the interests of the subordinate; semiotic resistance results from the desire of the subordinate to exert control over the meanings of their lives, a control that is typically denied them in their material social conditions (10)

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